Monday, August 1, 2011

A Tale of Sound and Fury

Cartoon courtesy of

For now, at least, it appears that a deal has been reached, and the United States will be able to honor its obligations.

I don't know where you stand on recent events in Washington, but I am relieved that we seem to have reached a resolution. However, I must confess that when I read some of the details of the accord I thought: Was this what all the drama was about?

According to Wikipedia, the total size of the federal budget for fiscal 2011 (which ends on September 30) is expected to be $3.8 trillion, and a deficit of $1.3 trillion. The total size of the spending cuts is supposed to be about $913 billion - but spread over the next decade.

In other words, it took the collective wisdom of all of our elected officials in Washington to agree to cut, on average, $91 billion this year - or about 2% of the total budget.

And there's more: Writing in this morning's Washington Post, Ezra Klein notes that most of the expected cuts are due to come from the defense department - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are totally off the table, despite the undeniable truth that these three areas are the major causes of the federal budget deficits:

And that gets to the truth of this deal, and perhaps of Washington in this age: it’s all about lowest-common denominator lawmaking. There are no taxes. No entitlement cuts. No stimulus. No infrastructure. Less in actual, specific deficit reduction than there was in the Simpson-Bowles, Ryan, or Obama plans, and even than there was in the Biden/Cantor or Obama/Boehner talks. The two sides didn’t concede more in order to get more. They conceded almost nothing in order to get a trigger and a process, not to mention avoid a financial catastrophe.